Sept. 27, 2005
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon/morning, right on the button here. After researching Purdue, for the most part a team that scores about 35 points per game (will win), because in the last 23 meetings, the team that has won has averaged 34.8 points a game. And Coach Tiller now has been in eight straight Bowl games. And I think the record at home is like 40 11 with an extremely high winning percentage; so he obviously is a great offensive mind. And together with Coach Chaney, they are averaging over 38 points a game this year, balanced attack, rushing for 210 and throwing for another 218, and that presents some problems because they obviously are not one dimensional.
The quarterback, everybody knows about (Brandon) Kirsch and how he has done a nice job of replacing (Kyle) Orton, (he threw) about 250 last week with a couple of touchdowns. You know about their running backs and (Jerod) Void is their captain but they also play (Kory) Sheets and (Brandon) Jones, and Sheets had a big game last week especially with that 88 yard run. The guy that you have to be concerned with, probably as much as the quarterback, is (Dorien) Bryant. He obviously can do it all. He’s their No. 1 receiver, he’s a kick returner, he’s been a punt returner in the past and even though they have not been used there, they have not been ready for him to be a punt returner, they motion him in the backfield, put him in at running back and he can fly. He’s obviously a guy you spend a lot of time with.
Their tight ends, you have to worry a little bit about (Charles) Davis right off the bat, he had five catches last week for 100 yards. And (Dustin) Keller worries you, too, because, and he already has a couple touchdowns this year as well. In addition to Bryant, you have to worry about (Kyle) Ingraham’s size and other guys, six nine, just under 230, and (Andre) Chattams and (Ray) Williams, they have all been in and out of there, especially if they go in and out of personnel groups. And it’s something I’m familiar with and you see these guys going in and out of there. Their offensive line, two guys that obviously have the most experience. (Mike) Otto, he started just about 28 games at left tackle, whereas, (Matt) Turner has played both center and guard. So obviously they have strong offensive line when you’re rushing for 210 and throwing for 217; they are obviously doing something right.
Coach Spack, he has been running that defense for a while. The thing that concerns you as much as anything else, they led the Big Ten in sacks with 35 and had seven against us; that game was painful to watch. And they already have nine in three games this year. There are four starters on the defensive line all started 15 games together at least, (Al) Royal, Mr. Captain, is the leader. And by the way, he had 11 tackles last week, so he’s stacking up.
But more than just a vocal leader and Coach Tiller’s comments this week, you can’t be ready for just three linebackers; you have to be ready for all six. When it comes to the secondary, (Bernard) Pollard and (Kyle) Smith, they have been playing together for a while back there. Smith has two picks. And Pollard, in addition to being a very good safety, he’s also a good special teams player, and in his career he’s blocked five kicks, including a punt against Akron this year. (Brian) Hickman is the corner who has the most playing experience.
They are big on blocking kicks. They blocked eight last year and they blocked one against Akron. And in addition to that, watching last year’s game, they also had 100 yard kickoff return against us. The other thing that presents a little bit of a problem is (Dave) Brytus, their kicker/punter, he doesn’t handle the place kicking. But he’s a kickoff/punter, he’s a lefty; so therefore, things are a little bit different. Because instead of putting the ball on the one hash mark, they put it on the other hash mark. If a ball turns over, just so you understand, from the punt returner’s aspect, when the ball is hit as a spiral, it dives just the opposite at the end of the catch, than it does coming off a righty punter, if you just saw a spiral, you’d think it lands the same way, but goes just the opposite. And (Ben) Jones doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to kick field goals, but he had one opportunity and made a 47 yard.
Kind of a state of the union on our research on Purdue.
Q. (Anthony) Fasano has 121 catches and tied for the team lead, in the NFL, the tight end is kind of the golden era right now; Gonzalez, what have you seen in the college game, has it caught up yet with the utilization of tight end or, does it still have a way to go because overall in college they are using it like they do there?
COACH WEIS: First of all, most pro tight ends are more one dimensional, believe it or not. Like Tony, he’s made his reputation off of catching and not blocking. I’m not saying that Anthony or Tony don’t block, but they have made their reputations by being skill guys, and then in the passing game. So each team utilize their tight ends a little bit different.
The one thing with our Anthony is he’s not afraid to block somebody, and he does a pretty good job of it in addition to being a pretty good catcher.
Q. What was it about Bill Lewis that attracted you to build your staff?
COACH WEIS: We could not complete any passes when we played the Dolphins. Now of course, it helps when you have Surtain and Madison, and they hold and they cheat, you know, but I really over the years had a lot of fondness for Bill and respect for him as a coach. The toughest team that we ever go against, every game and the passing game would be the Dolphins.
I mean, this is pretty easy. You’re looking for somebody when you are going to hire a staff, there’s a lot of things that come into play, but you’d better hire a guy that to coach the defensive backfield that knows what he’s doing and a guy that coaches the offensive line that knows what he’s doing, because if you don’t, you’re going to get beat in a hurry.
Q. What does he do to get those decades of knowledge, what does he bring to the defensive backs?
COACH WEIS: First of all he’s a great teacher and he’s very, very energetic. Here is a guy in his 60s where you would never know it if you watch him on the field. He’s a get after it guy. He runs all of the drills himself and he throws the ball. He teaches and talks the whole time. I kind of like hanging out by the DBs a lot to tell you the truth because I don’t usually like DBs too much, but I like watching the way he teaches them.
Q. Drew Stanton and Brandon Kirsch. Are there any parallels there between the two?
COACH WEIS: Stanton has got great production and he’s played more. Krisch has started nine games in his career and Stanton is in an offense where they have been thrown the ball a whole bunch more than they have been running it. Whereas Purdue this year in this offense, has become a very balanced offense, where in the past they were more of a passing offense. Now statistically, they have become more of a run and pass which presents a whole bunch more problems.
Q. Do you have any updates on Rhema McKnight and Bob Morton?
COACH WEIS: Bob isn’t necessarily out this week. It came out better than we thought it was going to be. Now I don’t know whether he’s questionable or doubtful but he’s not out. Rhema is getting closer. I don’t know if he’ll be able to go this week but it’s going to be pretty soon. He’s a lot closer.
But Bobby, I thought when it happened, whatever it was, not knowing medically whatever it was that he would definitely be out, but I’m very encouraged meeting with the trainer and the doctors and they said that he has a chance of playing this week.
Q. Has David Grimes officially supplanted Justin Hoskins the second kick returner now?
COACH WEIS: Well, he had one kickoff return last week and one for about 34 yards, so I don’t think I’m going to be in a big hurry to be taking him out.
Q. Can you talk about how Brady (Quinn) has improved over the first month of the season?
COACH WEIS: We’ve had up and downs. He does a very good job of managing the game, and that’s what true quarterbacks do. Good quarterbacks do a good job of managing the game, but I think that he’s starting to get the feel for doing that.
I’ve already talked about all of his positive attributes, but the one thing you never really know is how they are going to do when you call a play that it’s out of your hands and he has to go and manage the game, and he’s doing a good job of that.
Q. You have a couple of guys on your offensive line that have been both tackles and guards in their career. What do you look for when you’re drawing that line between having a guy be a guard or having a guy be a tackle?
COACH WEIS: Sometimes physically, a guy that you’d want to be a tackle has to play at guard because his arms are not long enough. When you’re pass blocking guys coming off the edge, one thing you can’t do is you can’t have short arms because you can get beat too easy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tackles that were not real good, but because they were so big, and because they had such long arms; that alone forces the guys to take a long way around to be able to get to the quarterback.
With guards and center you always look for some brains and toughness, but I look for tackles, too. So I don’t limit it to that. I think sometimes body type dictates it more than anybody else.
Q. Dan Stevenson’s case, can you talk about what makes him a good guard and how you think he’s contributed to the line?
COACH WEIS: His two greatest attributes are toughness and intelligence. He’s a tough guy, and when you’re lined up as an offensive guard and you have to slug it out with those big boys all the time, you’d better have some toughness and he has it. He’s a smart player as well.
Q. When Joe (Tiller) came into the Big Ten, they called it “basketball on grass,” the kind of offense that he ran and it was different than anybody else, but he really wanted to move closer to being a balanced offense. Did you ever undergo a similar evolution in regards to your offensive philosophy in your career?
COACH WEIS: No. We always found what guys we had and we called the play according to who we had. There were times when we didn’t have a running back and we threw it a lot more and we ran it. There were other times where we had more confidence in the running backs and tight ends, so it was all running play action. People made a big deal out of 2001 when we won the Super Bowl that we didn’t run it very much. Well, I didn’t have Corey Dillon, either. That helped a little bit. Last year all of a sudden you bring in a guy who rushes for 1,500 yards, you’d be stupid not to call more runs. A lot of it has to do with personnel.
Q. What are some of the intangibles that (Brandon) Hoyte and (Corey) Mays bring to the defense, and how comforting is it to have a couple of fifth year guys in the middle?
COACH WEIS: Before you even get to their talent, they both have extraordinary leadership capabilities and this team with the lack of experience that we have on defense, really warranted some people stepping up and assuming those leadership roles. The easiest guys to be leaders on the defense are the guys that are in the middle of all of the action and the linebackers are the ones that are there. They have got the defensive line in front of them. They have the defensive backs behind them and I think that having guys like that that pull people around them, it’s always a key attribute.
On top of that, you can talk about their ability and their toughness, because they are both really tough guys, but they are different type of players. Corey is a true middle linebacker, where Brandon is a true weak side linebacker that runs all over the field. They are different players in that aspect.
Q. Last year you signed 15 players, there’s more commitments now than signed last year, does this surprise you or is that by design?
COACH WEIS: Obviously, I can’t go into the details of recruiting, but I can tell you we took a very aggressive posture. All the way back when I first got here, I said that when I stayed true to form to both New England and Notre Dame, I felt that the dividends would be paid a year later and that those dividends are coming in now.
We have had a very aggressive approach. That it’s been very well orchestrated by Rob Ianello, and I think that hopefully all of the positive vibes that are out there stay until February 1, because right now, verbal commitment and signing on the paper are two different things.
Q. Have you started a trend with the coin toss call or is that people reacting to your offense?
COACH WEIS: Oh, you mean with them taking the ball?
COACH WEIS: Copycats, I don’t know. I like to win the toss, though. That would lift my spirits a little bit so that we didn’t get into other people doing the same thing.
I don’t know. I just know how we approach it. And I know one thing: We are changing our coin flip guy this week because I’m tired of going on the road and losing the toss.
Q. How would you describe Jeff Samardzija’s personality, it kind of comes off as a bit of a free spirit.
COACH WEIS: That’s true.
Q. Would that be accurate?
COACH WEIS: He reminds me… and a lot of times I try to look at players similar to players that I’ve been around before, and he reminds me in almost every way of Eddie McCaffrey. I remember Eddie when we drafted him to the Giants out of Stanford, and he was another free spirited guy, tall guy, productive in college. And I think Jeff could go on and play in the NFL and had a similar career to Eddie McCaffrey, I think he would be pretty happy.
Q. When you were looking for somebody to help on the deep ball, I saw that you had it in the back there, was he a natural choice because of his abilities?
COACH WEIS: We practiced both him and Mo (Stovall) back there. So at times we might even put both of them back there but when you’ve got two guys that are six five and jump and have good hands, they are good choices. You want to put all of those five 10, six foot guys back there when you have a couple of six foot guys that can jump in a jump ball situation.
Q. Is Darius Walker’s running style and his approach, is that affected in any way by the fact that you don’t have a lot of proven and doubt behind him; if he steps out of bounds a lot of time, would you rather that he not take that hit?
COACH WEIS: There are times where the average person would look at the hits and say, well, I wish he’d lower his shoulder and go ahead and take one, and there are times that you count on people doing that. We need one more yard to get the first down, I think he would be the first guy down there.
But I can tell you what I used to tell Deion Branch after watching I had won a big research study on (Marvin) Harrison a few years ago when Deion was a second year there and I noticed that Marvin with all of his production, any time the hits were coming, he was going down. So after I thought about it for a while, I thought, this isn’t the stupidest thing in the whole world to have your best guy when he’s about ready to get crunched to go ahead and make sure that doesn’t happen. When you look at the duration of the whole thing, I think that first of all, the depth of running back is pretty good to tell you the truth. I have a lot of confidence in the other guys, but there are times to take the hit and there are times not to take the hit.
Q. You talked about Brady (Quinn) a few minutes ago, he’s had two big games at Purdue and both were losses, and some of his best games have been losses. How do you change that? How do you get it to that he can have big games and win?
COACH WEIS: How did we do last week? Would you say it was a bad game? Twenty five for 37, I think that’s a pretty good game.
Q. When he passes for less than 150 yards, Notre Dame is 5-1. When he passes for more than 150 yards, it’s 1-6.
COACH WEIS: What do we need to get to this week? Just tell me that. (Laughter).
Q. 487 yards against Michigan State…
COACH WEIS: When you’re down by three touchdowns, you’re not throwing it that often. Like I said, I don’t want to be throwing the ball 60 times a game on the average.
I’m not worrying about how many yards he throws for to be honest with you. If he throws for 200 yards and we win, that’s a lot better than when he throws for 400 yards and we lose. A lot of it is dictated by how the game goes.
But on the same token, there’s been games where I’ve thrown it 25 times in a row, because that was the thing to do. the team is sitting there just begging you to throw it, you throw it. We’ll go into this game, every game with the intent of being balanced, but if one team wants to rush three and let us run the ball all day, we’re going to run the ball all day. If some team begs us to go ahead and throw the ball down the field, we’re going to do that.
I think that the most important thing is to set up a game plan that allows you to change within the game, to not just follow the whole pattern, you have to be willing to change within the game based off of what you see the other side doing.
Q. And you mentioned the number of big plays, the number against Michigan State, too, you said that the good thing was that a lot of players in position make plays, they didn’t make them. How do you fix that?
COACH WEIS: You can add schemes. You can add schemes to help counter some of the things that happen.
Q. Is it easier to change a player’s physical fundamentals or the mental part of the game?
COACH WEIS: Physical fundamentals are much easier to change than mental, but (Brady Quinn) already had the mental ability. All he had to do is learn how I like things done. So he was just waiting for that to happen. Physically, it’s the easier one to change because there are things that you can work on physically where sometimes mentally it’s just whether or not they can handle it or can’t handle.
Q. You do a lot of research and talked before about using text messaging and things like that to contact players, talk about how much technology has changed coaching since the time you got into coaching?
COACH WEIS: I’ll give you one example of that. When I first was in coaching, both in high school and all the way back to University of South Carolina, there was no videotape. It was all film. And film to make cut ups, you actually had to cut one play at a time off, and you’d get a piece of tape and hang them up on the wall. And to make a cut up, you then have a splicer and take this play and connect it to the next play; and sometimes you connect it upside down or backwards, and so you would be watching it, and all of the sudden there would be a play turned the wrong way.
Now, I can go up to my system right now and say, let me look at all of the third down and three plays that Purdue has run this year, and in five seconds I have it. They are all right there and they are all on the list. There’s all of the plays, third and three. There they are for the whole year. Now before, you’ve already given that step of making the little cut ups and you would walk into the room and there would be 50 cans of tape, and now it’s something that you can literally do in 30 seconds.
Q. You kind of started it so I’m going to see if I can get you to expand on it, you compared Samardzija to McCaffrey?
COACH WEIS: I’m talking about Purdue, just trying to give an analogy, that’s all. Sometimes I don’t have an analogy. Sometimes I look at a guy and I can’t get components. When the guys from the NFL calls me up and asks me about who is (Brady) Quinn like, I try to give those guys an analogy of somebody that they know off of the reservoir of people you know. I’m not saying they are the exact same people. I’m saying that is the closest one, and that’s not because he’s a big, white receiver because a lot of times that can be misconstrued that you’re just calling him a big white receiver. I’m just talking about his mannerisms. It’s eerie sometimes when you look at it and I think about a young Ed and Jeff and the similarities between the two of them.
Q. You’ve got Purdue coming up at the end of the a string of five games, first four out of five on the road. You blocked the season off a little bit and is this like a combination of that first block, you’ve got a week off coming up and this is the last of that four out of five.
COACH WEIS: It isn’t because of the four out of five in a row, it’s because you have a bye after this game. I think that you have a chance to regroup after this game. It gives you an opportunity to put all your energy into just beating Purdue. The fact that you don’t have a game the next week, what do you have to save it for? You do everything that you can to beat Purdue. And it’s going to take everything we have for that to happen.
I think that what happens then, then you get a chance to regroup, and the first thing you do, rather than worrying about your next opponent, is you identify problem areas that need to be fixed, A; and B, try to get some guys with bumps and bruises healed up for the next period that you have coming up.
That’s why I’m looking at the strange part of my schedule really coming from after the Purdue game until the Tennessee game, because you’ve got bye, game, game, bye, game. That’s a little unorthodox. So if you don’t lay it out exactly how you want it to being, all of a sudden it’s November and you’ve screwed up the month of October. I don’t want to screw up the month of October.
Q. Do you overall look at the next block and see that the next five or six are at home?
COACH WEIS: No. I’m really only worrying about getting through Saturday night, because you have time to worry about those next things after that.
All I want to do, because I’m trying to be good to you guys, because a lot of the schedule is tweaked as far as media type of things, who is available and when. I want to make sure I had it laid out enough in advance so that you guys are all on the same page as me as far as what we’re doing. I’m really worried about the opponent. It’s just knowing how we’re going to do it.
Q. You had mentioned Brady’s game management, something that impressed you, he’s improved in that area, can you talk about that and give some examples?
COACH WEIS: In this offense, the quarterback, you only do as much as your quarterback can handle. That’s all you do because there’s too many things that he’s asked to do besides just handing the ball off and calling the play in the huddle and running the motions and shifts. There’s too many things he has to do: He has to read the coverages, he has to look at pre snap reads, he has to identify fronts. There’s a lot of things he has to do. So you only do as much as the quarterback can handle. Because he’s very good at handling all of these things. It allows you to move the offense along faster than you would think you could do it in the first year of the system.
Q. After the game on Saturday, a lot of the guys on offense talked about how when they looked at the stat sheet, 560 yards, they were surprised because they said they felt like they made so many mistakes.
COACH WEIS: I agree.
Q. So many times college players see 36 points, 560 yards, that’s pretty good, but…
COACH WEIS: We had a lot of stats against Michigan State and we lost, right? It’s great to read the numbers, but there’s only one stat that’s important and that’s whether or not you won or lost.
It’s good that the players are not satisfied after winning a game. That’s a good thing. It’s good that they feel, we blew this or we should have done better there. That’s a good thing, because too many times people say, we won a game, so it hides all of those problems that happen in the game. It’s a good thing when the players realize there’s a lot of things that go wrong in the game. It gives you a better chance of being able to correct them.
Q. Shifting gears talking about January enrollment is that an option that’s going to be out there for you guys this year?
COACH WEIS: I think that we’ll continue to review that with Dan (Saracino), but I think that it’s a viable option.
Q. And just to be clear, if someone did enroll, were they counting the scholarship from last year or this year?
COACH WEIS: You could count them either way.
Q. I wanted to get your take on instant replay in the college game and whether you how would you compare it to the way it works in the pro game?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I think instant replay is a very good thing. I just think that the way the college game is set up, it’s used a little bit as a security blanket because they can review every play.
The pro game, except for the last two minutes of the half, and I don’t know why that is, either, to tell you the truth, but except for the last two minutes, is in the hands of the coaches. So it forces the coaches to have to make a decision on whether to challenge a call or not, realizing that if you’re wrong, it’s going to cost you a time out. I think that the college game having replay is a good thing because it clears up a lot of missed calls but at the same time, it’s also used a little bit as a security blanket because they know that if a call is missed it go to replay.
Q. The opening drive talk about how you feel about them and how much confidence that gives an offense?
COACH WEIS: I think that it’s important to get started fast in a game, there are a number of things that happen first. You’d like to score a touchdown. But you always want to make sure that the worst thing that at worst, you regain field position or change field position, my goal is to try to score every time we get the ball to start the game. One of the more disheartening things is when you go three and out to start a game, when you’ve had all of this time to prepare, you’d like to think that you can come up with at least a few plays that can get you a first down.
But changing field position sometimes is as important as anything else. For example, in our game against Washington, we did not score the first drive. But, we got the ball at the one yard line. So we got the ball at the one yard line and moved the ball down the field and a lot of times if you get the ball on the one yard line and run it three times and punt from your own end zone, they are in plus territory already and they have a short way to go to get points. So I think in addition to trying to score, I think changing field position is a critical factor.
Q. What have you seen that impresses you about the Purdue program this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, besides the fact that they are returning with so many guys on defense, I think that Coach Tiller and Coach Chaney, this year they have evolved at offense since Kyle (Orton) left. They have evolved that offense into such a more balanced offense than they have been in the past. It causes a whole bunch of problems. When a team is basically a throwing team first, if you can go in there and make sure that they don’t run the ball on you, at least you’ll have a fighting chance because you can play a mentality where they are just going to throw it on every down. Now, you no longer can perceive their offense as one dimensional and they are better in a defensive group.
Q. When (Rhema) McKnight comes back, you’re going to have an abundance of wide receivers, how are you going to manage that kind of depth?
COACH WEIS: You can never have too many good players. Just as I’ve been able to rotate guys at different positions, i.e., my inside guys on the offensive line I think I’ll have no problem getting Rhema into the mix right off the bat.
Q. Who will you be listing as your first two?
COACH WEIS: I’ll list three. I wouldn’t list two. I would list a combination of Stovall, Samardzija and McKnight all together and play them that way.